Roman Pottery

Samian Ware

Samian Ware has a pinkish orange fabric with a distinctive smooth red surface created by dipping the unfired pot into a slip before it went into the kiln. The potter’s finger prints can often be found on the base.

Samian Ware was produced in industrial quantities in Gaul, tens of thousands of pots in a single kiln. Before A.D.100 the production centre was in La Graufesenque in Southern Gaul. From A.D.100 to A.D. 210 potters in the Central Gaulish towns of Les Martres –de-Veyre and Lezoux had taken over. Later factories in Rheinzaburn in Eastern Gaul continued but with often inferior products.

Vessels were normally stamped with the makers name and can be traced throughout the Empire. There seems to have been a steady decline in supply during the second century and supply disappeared completely by A.D. 230. The reasons for the decline are unknown but in his book ’Pottery in Roman Britain’ Guy de la Bedoyere suggests that it could have been due to a civil war in A.D.197 that unsettled the region.

Samian Ware can be either plain or decorated. The decorated pots could be embellished with barbotine, appliqué, rouletted or incised decoration but mould decoration was by far the most common. In mould decoration details such as leaves, animals or abstract motifs were pressed into a layout of panels in the soft clay of the mould. To make a pot clay would be pressed into the fired mould, set onto a wheel and a pot drawn up. Once dry the pot would have shrunk sufficiently to be removed from the mould. Barbotine is a technique involving the application of a slip to the pot in the form of thick encrustations in patches or trails forming a picture or pattern.

The lack of damage to the Alcester collection is unusual. It is possible that a trader’s stock of bowls was buried during a fire or other catastrophic event.

Pictures from Warwickshire Museum Catalogue.
Information sources:
‘Pottery in Roman Britain’ by Guy de la Bedoyere